Everything seems to be perfect, but there’s still something missing..

Well, did you check what is it that has off late gone missing in your relationship -with your customer?
Did you check if the coffee was warm and the milkshake, super cool!
Hold on. ..do not assume that this one’s only about coffee, milkshake or the beverage industry .No , not at all, as you read on, you will figure out why I chose to refer to coffee and milkshake so early and why I love to draw from this comparison as I delve further into writing this piece.

Whether you come from a huge multinational corporate or a start up ,and more if your industry belongs to one of those characterized by high volume and high value customer interactions ,or one where customer relationship is generally spread across an extended duration of time, I am sure you and your organization are doing their level best to find this essential ingredient that has lately been missing from an otherwise perfectly blissful relationship … ; and causing a valuable loyal customer to go astray.

Every industry seems to be at the end of their wits tackling that piquant situation- when one fateful day they are made to stand face-to-face with a betraying customer, who says he has after all found a better partner, that there was always something missing in his experience …, the concern shown to him was far from being complete and fulfilling, and that he has finally decided to pack his bags or share his relationship…with --- oh no, that dreadful competitor ….!!!
So what was it that was lacking in the concern and care that was expected …and why didn’t the alarm bells ring earlier?

Thinking back on my 22-year-old self when I was undergoing my post graduation in Business Management, it was hard not to be in awe of technology and its possibilities. Slightly more than a decade down the line, indeed technology, social media and mobile apps have during this period redefined consumer behavior. But technology isn’t always the answer, and having spent 12 plus years in the industry myself across Banking and Hospitality, if I were to advice the 22-year-olds ,…eager to make their foray into the exciting world of managing customer relationships today, or even the seasoned ones who have already been there for a considerable time, I would without a doubt say to one and all------

“Believe it or not the science and art of managing a customer relationship is similar to managing any relationship in our personal lives…”
If there existed just one simple thing you could do.., this one simple thing does exist. And it's probably even simpler than you think. The answer – “talk to your customers and keep checking with them at every point of service delivery whether it’s going absolutely fine and exactly the way they expected it to be…”

The two most important dimensions against which any service delivered can be measured across industries is Time and Quality-and the essential ingredient I am hinting at that goes into ensuring that these metrics of service efficiency have been met----is the seemingly not so relevant but in reality a very significant act of a customer service manager (or, specifically the front line service representative) constantly checking proactively with a client through a human dialogue, on a day-to-day basis whether the customer did actually receive a particular service, exactly the way he wanted it, and on time.It means taking complete ownership and doing the checks real time, hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth during and throughout the entire process of actually delivering the service; and not post facto or at a future date through a feedback survey session.

Let’s draw from a similar experience in our personal lives, a quick flashback to where I actually started the discussion in the beginning of this post- about the coffee and the milk shake. Imagine yourself to be a working wife and mother, and one fine day just before leaving for an early morning meeting, while you still find your loved ones - your husband and child asleep, you decide to entrust your loyal maid with the easy job of serving coffee to your husband - which you have already prepared just the way he likes it and kept it warm in the kettle. And with all your loving efforts,you prepared another glass of milk shake for your son and kept it in the fridge for cooling, again delegating it to your maid to serve it to your bundle of joy once he is up .
Even when you are at work ,it keeps hovering in your mind whether the drinks reached your loved ones exactly the way they wanted them and hopefully at the right time when they would have enjoyed them the most…,so you do keep checking as much as you can to be doubly sure, and as soon as you get some time off , you definitely call back and check with your hubby and kiddy whether they liked what you made for them …and when you call you also make it a point to add a few more kind and loving words fueling more warmth and your personal touch !

Why do you do these checks when instead you can conveniently,and rightfully so, assume that your professionally trained maid will not go wrong in performing these simple tasks. Moreover here you are dealing with your own family, the people who are closest to you and with whom you don’t need to be formal, you already have that emotional connect...don’t you? …..and why the sense of urgency, after all you are juggling between home and work, and you can possibly call upon them later at the end of day!

But you don’t, and you do manage to steal those few minutes because you simply don’t want to take any chances when it comes to the happiness of your near and dear ones, you want them to have a more satisfying and fulfilling experience every time. You perhaps also wanted to ensure that they have a more productive day ahead and so they should start their morning with their favorite drinks…, cherry topping of course was your own personal touch when you called back to check with them yourself and this definitely struck the right emotional cord to further grow the awesome relations and the bonding in the family. Most of all you also wanted to strengthen and secure your own position in the family as the indispensable and always dependable source of care, concern and warmth. And best you got everyone talking in spite of their busy schedules, and sharing those brief yet precious moments of happiness and togetherness…building so much comfort and satisfaction. Awesome…isn’t it! In such a state of affairs even if sometimes things do go wrong and accidentally your maid missed out something…do you think it will be that shocking? I think not, your care and concern will definitely stand reciprocated at all times.

Back to the world of customer experience- I am sure there are some great acts of rolling the red carpet when the customer visits the office, sending regular feedback surveys (which hopefully the client does participate in ), wishing him on birthdays , calling him for customer service meetings..and so on and so forth which happen all the time…so far so good…these definitely go a long way in doing the damage control.
But what about the genuine concern, empathy and accountability that a service provider should share with a high net worth client at every step similar to the one we just witnessed in our personal relations. In today’s environment of outsourcing and supply chain systems where everyone co-works with so many other channel partners to ensure cost efficiency,…. an engaging conversation with the first in the link to whom the customer communicates his requirement directly and who is the quintessential customer service interface, is irreplaceable, and must take place seamlessly end-to-end till the final feedback from the client confirming the satisfactory receiving of service has been registered!
Having seen it first hand in leading multinational firms, I am sure most of you here too will agree that more often than not the messy experience in a client relationship that ultimately adds to causing an eventual breakup is not about the complicated high value transactions for which even the customer and the higher ups in the organization are themselves on the alert,..instead most of the time it’s the very basic stuff that proves to be the game changer---- for instance delayed delivery by a few hours of a document by your courier partner, which was not monitored or not checked with the client from your end whether actually received by him on time for that one particular crucial meeting of his…;or, it could be that extra chair or table that a client expected for his guest in his room and got missed out by your housekeeping partner, but you also didn’t bother to check with the client yourself...

Fact of the matter is no tracking MIS that pops later or technology can tell you exactly how let down the client must have felt , not because it was a matter of only a few minutes delay in the delivery of the document or the chair which hampered his repute and productivity--you after all are not a courier or a house keeping company anyway-your core product and service maybe something else; but because of the utter lack of concern shown in not doing simple checks and not valuing the customer’s opinion by not remaining connected with him at a crucial time--- you have given him all the reasons to feel withdrawn and detached.

One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou:
“People will forget what you said,
People will forget what you did,
But people will never forget how you made them feel”
And your customers are the quintessential people referred to in this quote!

Its these small experiences that go into building the bigger picture …and what actually causes a vicious circle, is the fact that the modern day customer does not always inform or give a feedback instantly to his service manager, many a time he does not make a noise or alert his service partner early enough,rather prefers to sulk and starts shopping elsewhere…. responding to whoever out there promises to fill this gap for him. And here you are failing to show the interest or concern that could have given him a  point of comfort and trust from where he felt like bringing things to your notice.

Life goes on…and in our world of assumptions we are acting complacent thinking processes are running smooth not realizing the disconnect that’s growing within the otherwise harmonious relationship, and this is what the missing ingredient is all about, in a customer experience.

Our clients are the same emotional beings that we ourselves are, so why not carry the same passion and zeal that we have for some in our personal lives into managing customer relations as well. Akin to some of our demanding and sensitive partners, if we need to ensure a lasting relationship by building that nest of comfort where the customer wants to come back and stay permanently, we need to build the ability in us to intuitively gauge what’s going on under the surface, and what’s transpiring at his emotional subconscious level; - there can be no other way but a regular two way dialogue that can ensure this, we must never shy away to make the first move in getting our customers talking and posting us with what they are going through…be it appreciation or grievance -- let there be noise and not that mounting silence.

The companies that are most successful in retaining loyal customers and growing them into awesome long term relationships are the ones who not only have the best products and services like the best coffee and the best milk shake , but who also never assume and a make it a point to constantly check first hand with their clients through that personalized human contact ,whether their favorite drink is indeed made and served exactly as they wanted, and whether they actually got the coffee warm and the milk shake cool enough , each time!
With this kind of connection, I am sure you agree- everything seems to be perfect…and nothing is missing ..
Thanks for taking time to read my post ,  I look forward to your feedback and comments..
Image source :http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Receptionists.jpg

This article also posted by me in professional networking site, Linkedin .com https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/everything-seems-perfect-theres-still-something-missing-namita-sinha